DESKCHAIR by Carina Schiltz, Final Year MDiv Student

This is a poem for all the people who have ever sat in a desk

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for some

October 26, 2015 Spring Valley High School, Colombia, South Carolina
Apparently
You refusing to get off your
Cell phone while in class
Posed a threat
Not only to “the authority”
But to all this
Country holds
Dear:
Namely,
Profit based on oppression.
You are a child,
You are a criminal,
Or at least that’s what they see when they
See you.
And so you were body-slammed
For the sake of the status quo,
Made an example of,
Your worth assigned to you
By society
Reinforced as you were flung
To the ground
While all around you, people sat
Frozen.

O God,
Unfreeze our hearts and hands and mouths.
The lie we are living CANNOT get any bigger than this.
This brutality that erases humanity.
God, it has happened again
And now I see this is not the exception,
It is the rule.
The rule of centuries of slavery, rape,
Lynching, segregation, Jim Crow,
colored only, redlining,
School-to-prison pipeline.
This is how black people
Black children,
Are treated daily.
And meanwhile
Day in and day out
For twenty years
I have sat in a school desk
And have never
Once
Considered it to be a place
That holds the possibility
Of assault.

My white skin blinds people with my
Assigned innocence.

But maybe today, this desk connects me to you
You who aren’t safe even in a classroom
And me—
Who sits in a desk hearing about how God loves the world.

And now I know what I have to do.
Open my eyes. To my privilege, and your pain.

I have to ask forgiveness.
But I know forgiveness is dangerous
Because I know it will change me,
And I won’t be able to just sit silently in my desk
Any longer
And pretend like you are not beaten down
Every
day

Forgiveness forces me to look
Into your eyes and see the centuries of
Pain under which you live
Opens my ear to hear your story
Your story.
And forgiveness
Then turns my head to look into
The mirror and see the layer,
A shield of invisibility
My white protection,
My instant “in”

But there is something else.
I reach up and feel the wet cross on my forehead and know
We belong to each other.
Forgive me for not knowing until now.
I’m sorry.

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